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“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” – Dave Ramsey

I’m not sure if it’s a cultural norm, a nasty habit, or an insecurity built into our collective psyche (maybe all three), but I, for one, have spent countless dollars on garbage I either didn’t need or couldn’t afford.

Thankfully, I’ve really been able to turn things around the past six months or so. I won’t get into how I became debt-free here (perhaps in an upcoming post), but I think one of the primary keys to financial freedom is to simply cut out all of those unnecessary impulse buys. No, I’m not talking about cutting out buying chocolate bars while you’re stuck in line at the grocery store (those are essential) – I’m talking about things that you didn’t truly love in the first place. Things like that heinous pair of shoes you just had to have, the authentic poker table you currently have wedged in your garage, and the myriad of Groupon deals you’ve purchased over the past year. For me, that last one has been a particularly humbling lesson in shopping smart. Let’s review my track record.

• Last year, I inexplicable bought not one, but three vouchers for one month of unlimited rock climbing time at the Toronto Climbing Academy. Who can blame me? They were only $45 each! At over 60% off, my hands were essentially tied – never mind the fact that I haven’t been rock climbing since I was 12. The real pain in all of this is that I bought it online, promptly forgot about it, and now (a whole year later) they’ve expired! Needless to say, it was the best $135 I ever spent.

• In another woeful tale, I haplessly bought two hours at a recording studio (at the tremendously discounted price of $85), only to find out after the purchase had been made that you were not allowed to bring instruments into the studio. The ad said nothing about it being a strictly voice-centered recording studio, but ‘buyers-keepers’… Needless to say, I have no plans to croon out my own Christmas album.

Now I will admit that ‘daily deal’ purchases aren’t the problem here. The lesson I had to learn was to be smart about my purchases. I’ve admittedly come close to making some additional buys in recent weeks, but have been forcing myself to delay the final decision for a few hours. In all cases, I ultimately elected to pass – much to the delight of my bank account.

Do you have any horror stories of your own? How do you keep your impulses in check?